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How to Combat Low Motivation and Performance Drops During a Pandemic

Contributed by: Jen McKenzie

Person sitting at a table, unmotivated

As a manager or team leader, ensuring that your team maintains a high level of motivation is crucial. This is true no matter what industry you’re in since your employees are the lifeblood of your organization. However, this can be easier said than done.

Modern challenges, such as COVID-19 and the move by many companies to remote working arrangements, mean that your team might not all be working in the same location. Research by Harvard has shown that remote teams tend to struggle with motivation. This problem can lead to lower performance and, ultimately, to less growth.

Every business needs various strategies and steps to combat low motivation and performance drops, especially during a pandemic while your team telecommutes. You need a roadmap to get your team back on track and boost your business revenues, efficiency, and team happiness.


Let’s get started!

Start the Discussion- Why the Lack of Motivation?

What gets measured gets managed. When it comes to business, what you manage will send a message to your team about your priorities. Therefore, you should survey your team. Surveying your team will help boost motivation in two ways. First of all, it will make all members more committed to your organization, because they will know you care about their opinions. You will also be able to uncover the key reasons that might be holding your team back in terms of low motivation or performance.

Here are a few ways to get the conversation started:

  • First, you can conduct an online tool survey. Take advantage of online and digital tools to elicit responses from your team. Everyone can access this, no matter where they are.
  • Next, you can try holding a video meeting with the whole team and encourage them to voice their concerns.
  • Finally, anonymous feedback is also a good option. Employees may be shy about explaining their motivational issues. Allowing them to express their concerns without fear of reprisal or judgment will produce honest responses.

Allowing them to express their concerns in an anonymous survey is a good solution for this.

Good questions to ask when soliciting feedback include:

  • What parts of your job do you enjoy?
  • What parts of your job would you like to change or improve?
  • How well does management support you?
  • What do you feel is the primary issue holding back your performance?

By asking for their opinions and advice, you will uncover key insights. These tools will allow you to focus your energies on the true cause of the challenges.

Identify the Problem

Once you have surveyed your team, you are ready to identify the problem. This is an important step. You can’t solve something if you don’t know where to begin. However, there are a few challenges with identifying what is holding your team back.

For one thing, despite your best efforts to get to the truth, you may still encounter a situation where employees are not being completely upfront about their problems. Or, you could discover that the supposed problem is not really the main problem that needs addressing. Alternately, there could be more than one problem requiring multiple solutions.

For instance, an employee may say that they are not motivated because they weren’t given a raise for their work. However, you might compare their salary with others in the same role and find out that their performances aren’t lacking. This would point to a personal problem with this specific employee that needs to be addressed. Maybe they have worked there longer or perhaps have different financial burdens than the others.

Another case could be if someone says that the pandemic has reduced their performance because of overall stress or depression. While this is certainly understandable, they still have a commitment to perform their job duties. Therefore, you should do your best to work out a mutually beneficial solution—one that supports your employee’s well-being, while also enabling them to deliver satisfactory results.

Explore the Cause & Increase Motivation

Getting your team’s feedback is the first step to increasing motivation during the lockdown. However, this alone is not enough to make a powerful change in your organization. To truly lift the spirits of your team, you need to address the core issue behind their low performance. Otherwise, it could continue to negatively affect your business.

In order to get to the solution, you need a two-pronged approach:

Not only should you have your employees tell you what the underlying causes could be, but the management should also offer their view of the issue and its consequences to the business. By doing this, you get a 360-degree view of the situation.

You can conduct exploratory meetings to get to the root cause of the problem. This will involve the whole team. When someone mentions a problem, everyone can put in the effort to determine what might be causing it.

Here are some ways to document the cause once you’ve figured it out:

  • Whiteboard – If your team is currently residing in the same office, dedicate a whiteboard to this issue. Everyone will see it when they walk in, reminding them to stay focused.
  • Online Documents – Google Docs and other shared documents will allow your whole team to access this information any time, no matter where they are.
  • Memos – Send a group email, so that everyone is on the same page. This may be the best method for some companies, as you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Organizations that focus on the root cause of issues will better be able to move forward toward solutions, so don’t skip this important step.

Low Motivation- Uncover Alternatives

At this point, your company has realized that low motivation and performance drops have become a problem. You have started a dialogue with your team to uncover their feelings, make them feel valued, and determine potential problems. However, even once you’ve uncovered the source of the problems, the real work is ahead.

Now it’s time to explore potential alternatives that will turn the ship around. This is a process that might take some time at first. The most important aspect to consider is which characteristics your alternative methods of working should include. Ask yourself, has it been done before? Depending on how long you have been in business, you may have employees that haven’t been there since the beginning. You should entertain their ideas, but make sure they’re not exploring methods that have failed in the past.

Next, check if there are examples of this working elsewhere. Can you identify competitors or any other organizations that have implemented what you’re suggesting with success? If not, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

Your final concern should be: can the entire team adopt it? In other words, is this something that everyone can use? Some employees may not have the same mindset or the tools to use a new method to stay motivated.

However, the most important thing to do is to experiment. After all, you don’t know what will work until you try it. Therefore, be sure to take baby steps when implementing any alternatives and be prepared for tweaks or shifts in strategy as needed.

Create Educational eCourses

Now that you have explored potential alternatives, you can move forward on taking action to give your team the tools they need to perform better. One excellent way to do this is via educational courses that cover areas your employees are struggling with.

When you create an eCourse, you gain a number of advantages over other methods:

  • Instant Access – With an educational eCourse, your team can access the content any time they need it. That way, if they fall into a rut, they can get out of it quicker.
  • Available Globally – If your team is across the globe, it won’t prevent them from logging in and accessing the training.
  • Scalable and Consistent – You can create your training program, having it run for as long as it is effective, and modifying it as needed. It would be impossible to do the same with live trainers.
  • Free and Low Cost – It doesn’t cost very much to have data in the cloud these days. That means you can deliver your resources to your team without hurting your budget.

Of course, you need to ensure that the course has the right content in the first place. Otherwise, it might not do the hard work of motivating your team. The right content should appeal to your team’s needs first. This means that it addresses the relevant aspects like job roles, legal requirements, and more.

Secondly, the content should focus on emotional ways to get people excited. This can include excerpts from motivational material and even your own mission statement. By focusing their energies on the positive, your team can produce more effectively.

Measure Results

Great businesses are always testing their theories. Just like in marketing, you need to evaluate your efforts with concrete data. By analyzing the results, you can determine if your methods have been effective at boosting performance and which specific aspects might need to be modified further. Conversely, if you don’t measure your results, you are bound to repeat the same mistakes.

So, define a few Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you will track starting immediately until you implement any new policies, and then watch as the performance of those objectives oscillates. That way, you can remove the parts of your strategy that don’t work and double down on those that do.

Moving Forward

As a business leader, you have a variety of responsibilities on your hands. However, do not forget the importance of the motivation and focus of your team. This is especially the case during these difficult times when many employees are working remotely and dealing with multiple life challenges. Luckily, there are steps you can take to mitigate lackluster performance. If you don’t, your team could produce poor results that limit the success of your business. By following some simple steps, you can uncover the source of low motivation, reinvigorate your team, and help them make the most out of their skills.


About the Author: Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York. She writes extensively on business, education, and human resource topics. When Jennifer is not at her desk working, you can usually find her hiking or taking a road trip with her two dogs. You can reach Jennifer @jenmcknzie

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